The Olympics will be underway soon in South Korea, and every country is battling for a victory, mouthing the words of their country's National Anthem atop the medal podium. While these athletes have prepared their entire lives to compete on the world stage, their efforts sometimes become overshadowed by scandals surrounding the games.
Recently, Russia was banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics for operating a state-run doping scheme, in which government officials were switching out 'dirty' urine samples for clean ones. Although the country is banned, some athletes may compete under the neutral tag, as long as they are proven to be clean. So, where does this scandal fall in the long list of Winter Olympic scandals? You'll just have to keep reading to find out.
At TheSportster, we turned back the clocks and scoured the history books to find you the most scandalous moments of all-time from the Winter Olympics. Get ready for the dopers, bribers, cheaters, and athletes that make up the 15 most scandals in Winter Olympic history. Some of these were just nasty to hear. While the Olympics is usually a time to celebrate the world's greatest athletes, sometimes it's just a bad reminder of what can happen when an event as big as the Olympics is put together.
15 Sochi Living Conditions
Już wiem co się może dziać z moim pokojem ;) pic.twitter.com/Vx0JZ1O0F1— Kamil Wolnicki (@KamilWolnicki) February 5, 2014
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi have come and gone, but one of the most memorable parts of the games was the living standards in the Olympic village. Horror stories from athletes around the world flooded social media and overshadowed the games themselves. Much of the money to build the infrastructure was funneled into corrupt politicians' pockets, rather than toward venues and housing. To date, Sochi is known as the most expensive Olympics.
Some of the more troubling issues in Olympic village were brackish tap water, exposed wiring, ongoing construction, stray dogs, and even toilets without dividers! Nothing screams team bonding like performing your "morning routine" together! The Huffington Post compiled some pretty shocking photos from the apartments in the 'Russian Riviera' and trust me, you wouldn't want to live there!
14 The One-Man Scandal Band
German-born cross country skier, Johann Mühlegg, is an odd athlete to say the least. After competing on the national stage in the early 90s, he grew distant from the German team, accusing his coach of "damaging his spirituality." He even went to the lengths of carrying his own flask of "holy water" with him everywhere he traveled! The Germans realized this guy was utterly crazy, and kicked him off the team. Mühlegg ended up quitting on his home country, and became a citizen of Spain, where he was able to compete without criticism of his strange habits.
Well, in 2002, Mühlegg thought he had the last laugh when he bested the Germans in Salt Lake City, taking home three gold medals. But, he was eventually disqualified after testing positive for darbepoetin, a protein that boosts red blood cell count. Mühlegg had to forfeit the medals, and the cross-country world now saw him in the way Germany always had, a disgrace.
13 The Backlash From Jackie Chamoun's Racy Photo
While we always highlight beautiful female athletes at TheSporster, it's hard to forget that these racy photos can sometimes be controversial in other countries. Take alpine skier, Jackie Chamoun, for example. The Lebanese skier became the topic of conversation after competing in Sochi in 2014, when her home country of Lebanon found out about her topless photos on the internet. The two-time Olympian posed for photographer, Hubertus von Hohenlohe, in 2011 for a sexy skier calendar in Austria.
Social media took to Chamoun's side, starting the hashtag "#StripForJackie." While the semi-conservative country in the Middle East conducted their own investigation, the rest of the world was supporting the skier. Nothing came from the scandal, and Chamoun finished 47th in the Slalom in Sochi, but it just goes to show how far our world still has to come.
12 Bode Miller Acts A Fool
One of the most decorated skiers in American history was in some hot water prior to the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin. He admitted in the past to partying it up in the Olympic village, then skiing in the international competition while still buzzed from the night before.
Miller confessed in an interview with Barbara Walters on 60 Minutes that while skiing drunk is dangerous, he did it all the time. During the interview, Miller Stated:
"Talk about a hard challenge right there. ... If you ever tried
to ski when you're wasted, it's not easy. Try and ski a
slalom when ... you hit a gate less than every one second, so it's
risky. You're putting your life at risk. ... It's like driving
drunk, only there are no rules about it in ski racing."
While his good guy reputation was tarnished, Miller still managed to medal in both Vancouver and Sochi. He has since changed his partying ways, but definitely disappointed fans by choosing the party-life over his country.
11 That's Not Where Your Medal Goes!
Winning a medal in the Olympics is the dream of every young competitor. During the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, American snowboarder, Scotty Lago, was able to secure third place in the Halfpipe competition. He finished behind teammate, Shaun White, and Finland's Peetu Piiroinen, scoring a 42.8 out of 50. But, the controversy came after some risque photos surfaced of Scott with his Olympic hardware.
As you can see from above, Lago has a little too much fun after winning his bronze medal, flaunting it around the bar in Team USA gear. After the picture surfaced on the internet, Lago was tossed from Vancouver, being sent home before the conclusion of the games. For all you first-timers in Pyeongchang, don't go around displaying your medal at the bar, it will only get you into trouble!
10 The Luge Competition Heats Up
Nowadays, when it comes to obtaining an edge in the Olympics, many athletes dope. Whether it's hormone boosters, an excess of red blood cells, or even forms of amphetamine to increase focus, competitors (and countries) will try anything to swindle their way to a gold medal. Back in the day though, some athletes were using some interesting tactics to increase their chances of winning.
In the 1968 Winter Olympics in France, former luge champion, Ortrun Enderlein, was caught cheating in her race. But, how does one exactly cheat in luge? Well, the East German, and two of her countrywomen, decided to heat up the runners of their sleds, gaining them an advantage on the icy track due to less friction. The trio was disqualified from the competition and stripped of their medals. Still, in typical communist fashion, the East Germans discredited the scandal as a "capitalist revanchist plot."
9 1976 Games Relocated
For those of you who are unaware of how Olympic cities get selected, we'll give you the simple breakdown. Around the world, cities submit bids about eight years before the games, and the IOC reviews all of the potential landing spots, eventually settling on one. While sometimes there is some "under the table" money exchanged, most cities see the Olympics as a huge economic and cultural victory.
The exception is the city of Denver, Colorado. 'Mile High' was supposed to host the 1976 Winter Games, as they had already won the bid from the committee. But, in 1972, Denver sent a letter to the IOC informing them that they would not be able to host the games due to insufficient funding. Many citizens and government officials in Colorado were concerned that the industrialized Olympics would have a negative impact on the pristine Rockies, and the boost in the economy would not offset the natural destruction. Innsbruck, Austria was eventually awarded the games, as they had all of the venues ready from hosting in 1962.
8 Salt Lake City Bribes IOC
As we mentioned previously, the Olympic bid process can be treacherous, and often disappointing. But, they always say the fifth time's a charm, right? Well, in 1995, after four unsuccessful bids to host the Winter Games, Salt Lake City finally got their acceptance letter from the IOC. But, why would a small city in Utah win over all the other popular destinations in the world?
In 1998, members of the IOC were investigated for allegedly taking bribes from Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC). The whole investigation led to the termination of several officials from the IOC, and even brought a separate investigation from the US Department of Justice. In the latter investigation, all parties involved were acquitted under mysterious circumstances. During the whole process, it was discovered that accepting bribes was common in the IOC, and led the committee to change its rules for accepting host cities.
7 Rebagliati Wins Gold, Loses It, Then Wins Again!
Let's all be real; smoking pot is synonymous with the mountain life. We all know the stoner kids who would trek up to the mountains every weekend or set up a box-rail in the backyard after the first snowfall in autumn. But, you would never expect an Olympic athlete to being lighting up on the world's largest stage.
Think again! Canadian downhill snowboarder, Ross Rebagliati, won gold in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano in the Giant Slalom. But, after his drug test came back, officials made Rebagliati surrender his medal, citing the presence of THC in the snowboarder's system. Unlike many professional sports in the USA, marijuana was not banned by the Olympic testing committee, and the decision was eventually overturned, letting the Canadian stoner keep his medal. He became a national icon, and is just an all-around cool dude.
6 USA Doubles Up In Hockey
In the midst of two cancelled Winter Olympics due to World War II (see No. 6), the 1948 Games in St. Moritz were supposed to be a celebration. But, in America, there was infighting between two of the largest hockey organizations, almost weighing down the triumph of the games. Long story short, the two organizations claimed to be the legitimate governing body of American Hockey, and neither backed down, each of them sending their own team to Switzerland.
Both teams were on the ice during the opening ceremonies, while only one actually competed. Due to the controversy, the IOC actually announced the hockey portion of the Olympics to be an "unregulated event," in which no one would be allowed to medal. The committee later legitimized the event again, only disqualifying the Americans from the chance to stand atop the podium.
5 1940 and 1944 Games Cancelled
Supposed to be held in Sapporo, Japan, the 1940 Winter Olympics were cancelled due to the onset of World War II. Originally, Japan invaded China in 1938, and the games were given to St. Moritz, Switzerland, and then to Germany. But, after Hitler and the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, the IOC cancelled the event altogether.
The same thing happened with the Winter Olympics in 1944. In 1939, they were awarded to Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, but eventually cancelled due to the war.
The Olympics are an event that pits countries against each other, but ultimately, it's about the spirit of competition. In today's society, it's important to remember that the Olympics... is just the Olympics. While there is tension between countries on a global scale, these games are just games. Cheer for your country, but know there are much bigger issues in the world!
Now, I'll get off my soapbox because no one wants to be politically handcuffed.
4 Ohno Tripped Up
Americans have never had a regular seat at the table of speed skating prominence. It's probably because most athletes are focused on more lucrative sports! But, in 2002, an unlikely kid from Seattle, Apolo Anton Ohno burst on to the scene at the games in Salt Lake City. He began training in 1996 on the short-track, and under his father's supervision and guidance, working his way onto the national stage.
In the 2002 Winter Olympics, Anton Ohno emerged as the face of Team USA speed skating. But, in the 1000 meter event, he fell in a nasty collision, allowing the last place racer, Steven Bradbury of Australia, to glide to the finish line for the gold.
Although unfortunate, that's not the most scandalous event from Utah. During the 1,500 meter final, Anton Ohno was in second-place heading into the final lap when he attempted to pass the leader, South Korea's Kim Dong-Sung. Although Dong-Sun finished in first, he was disqualified for impeding the American, in a controversial decision by the judges. Anton Ohno was eventually given the gold, but whether or not he was blocked by Dong-Sung is still up for debate.
3 Every Judge Has Their Price
Imagine preparing your entire life to compete, visually and technically performing better than your opponents, but still coming in second. That was the feeling that figure skating pair, Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, from Canada had when they received the silver medal in the short program in Salt Lake City, losing to the Russian duo of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.
During the Russians' routine, Sikharulidze stepped out of a double axel. While not severe, the error was obvious, and they should have been docked by the judges. But, come to find out, the French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne, had been "pressured" to reward the Russians, no matter how well they performed during their routine. Apparently, there was a deal that the Russian judge would do the same for the French in the ice dancing competition the following day.
Post-Olympics, after an internal investigation was conducted by the International Skating Union (ISU) the Canadian's silver was upgraded to Gold, while the Russians still retained their medal. Le Gougne was suspended on the grounds of misconduct, and the ISU was forced to change the judging system, making it less subjective.
2 2018 Russian Doping Scandal
Russia has been no stranger to controversy at the Olympics. In the 2016 Rio Games, their entire track & field team was banned for competing due to doping, but that doesn't measure up to the news that broke in early December of 2017. The IOC announced that the entire Russian Federation was banned from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang due to a state-sponsored doping program. While clean athletes are able to compete in South Korea under a neutral tag, there will be an everlasting stain on an already tarnished reputation of Russian athletics.
According to the reports, when an athlete was to get drug tested, the Russian's secret service equivalent would switch out the contaminated samples with clean urine, clearing the athletes of any wrongdoing. But, due to a Netflix documentary, Icarus, which featured Russian whistle-blower, Grigory Rodchenkov, the IOC was forced to test the "B" samples of these athletes, which all came back positive for PEDs. We'll see how the scandal plays out in the future, but for now, Russian athletes are screwed.
1 The Infamous Tonya Harding
With the Winter Olympics around the corner, and the Hollywood hit, I, Tonya, in theaters, we had to include the Harding-Kerrigan scandal at the top of our list. For those who are unaware of the situation, Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gilooly, and ex-bodyguard, Shawn Eckhardt, hired a man to bash the knees of teammate and rival, Nancy Kerrigan, in hopes of injuring her, allowing Harding to skate to victory. The aftermath of her attack was caught on camera, with Kerrigan's blood-curdling cries of "Why? Why?," heard around the world. Just seven weeks after the attack, Kerrigan made a comeback and took home the silver in Lilehammer.
While Harding has since admitted to her involvement in the "hit," and has been banned for life from competing, the sudden popularity of the film I, Tonya has shed a new light on her story. Harding was the victim of an abusive relationship and while in the back of her mind, she knew the Kerrigan incident was wrong, she didn't have the power to stop it. The movie details the treatment of low-income athletes and abuse of power. Seriously, when it re-runs on Netflix next year, it's worth a watch.